Everything You Need To Know

How's A QR Code Different To NFC? - Feb 2017

The idea of using barcodes to transfer small amounts of data is not new and there are many different types of barcode like the QR Codes that allow you to do this.

With all barcodes it requires a visible code and an optical sensor such as a camera or a laser that is able to take a scan of that code and then translate it into readable data.

NFC Logo

There is a different technology that aims to do similar but in a different way and that is NFC. NFC allows for the transfer of small amounts of data over a short distance. it's relatively inexpensive but does requires specific hardware to make it work. You don't need a camera or a laser to read an NFC Tag but you do need a device that includes the NFC radios needed to power up and read the tag.

Unlike QR Codes, NFC tags don't have to be visible and can be hidden behind objects or in small stickers. They are basically RFID tags that are activated when in range of a reader and can transfer their data over a distance of only a few centimetres.

Smartphones are driving the use of NFC and you often find that NFC is the enabler in a bigger task. For example if person A wanted to send a large file to person B, they couldn't do so over NFC but if they tapped both NFC devices together, NFC could pass on details of the intention, turn on Bluetooth, pair the two devices and kick off the data transfer over Bluetooth.

NFC Tags

With NFC the device can both send and receive data to and from the NFC Tag. QR Codes on the other hand are only good for consuming data and would generally provide something simple like a link or contact details. One key advantage with a QR Code is that anyone with a printer can make a QR Code but with NFC you need to purchase NFC tags and then encode them.

The other area in which NFC is set to take off is with secure building access and payments. So rather than having a security card you swipe at the gate when you arrive at the office, your NFC enabled smartphone can be tapped on the sensor to gain access. Or instead of carrying your credit card, you add your credit card details into the payment app on your phone and use NFC to make the payment by tapping against the terminal at checkout.

With QR codes we are seeing companies such as Subway start to use them for loyalty schemes and with Starbucks and Odeon you can make payments via barcodes but this is not as secure as NFC.

There are advantages to both technologies and they will coexist for a long time to come.


If you're new to QR Codes and want to learn a little more, then take the time to read What's A QR Code

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If you want something a little more technical, try The Technical Stuff